When Governors of South West Nigeria announced the setting up of a regional security outfit, known as Amotekun (Leopard), it seemed a long shot given the delicate nature of policing which is thought to be constitutionally the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government. Many saw it as an attempt at foisting secession, or at best a move aimed at securing self determination; a part of the campaign by the governors for true federalism and restructuring of Nigeria.
Of course, pundits predicted almost correctly, that the Federal Government was going to move against the South West governors. This was because President Muhamnadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) led central government had been very sensitive when an earlier attempt was muted by the Pan Igbo sociocultural group, Ohanaeze and other associated subgroups for a regional security outfit in the South East.
Buhari, rather than acquiesce to the demand for a South East regional outfit instead launched a military campaign, code named Operation Python Dance to quell what his administration perceived as rising insurrection, and which has led to the killing of many agitators.
Therefore, the outcry that greeted the announcement of the setting up of Amotekun followed what seemed like a familiar pattern. And, matters were not helped when the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), declared the move to set up a regional outfit in the South West as unconstitutional.
Perhaps, it was the fact that five out of six governors belong to the ruling APC that made reason to prevail. It could also have been the insistence of the governors that forced the Federal Government to a round table, thereby foreclosing a constitutional crisis and a looming threat to the federal structure in place in Nigeria. Ultimately, reason prevailed and the federal government agreed to the setting up of Amotekun. Any further misgivings about the stance of Abuja was dispelled by the actual take-off of Amotekun in Ondo State in a colourful ceremony.
But, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, while not opposing the idea entirely stood against the setting up of the pan-Yoruba security outfit on the ground that it runs counter to the Police Act which provides for one national police force. The IGP instead proposed a state structure which unarguably mitigates the overwhelming behemoth which Amotekun was meant to be. Again, it could be said that the APC factor prevailed as the South West governors soon agreed to make Amotekun a state affair.
However, Delta State Government took everyone by surprise in announcing the setting up a security outfit code named Operation Delta Hawk. The announcement was devoid of rancour and flexing of muscles with the federal authorities. Rather, it had the immediate blessing of IGP Adamu who saw it as an opportunity to unveil his plan for community policing in the country.
Delta Stste Government on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 said it had begun moves to establish a security force to check rising insecurity in the state. Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Chiedu Ebie, made this known at a news conference in Asaba, disclosing that the state government was concerned about the rising insecurity in the state occasioned by herders-farmers clashes, kidnapping and other violent crimes.
Ebie remarked that the Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, was worried about cases of death and injuries resulting from the clashes and therefore, resolved to set up a security outfit to be controlled by the state in managing the security challenges.
The SSG who was flanked by Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, and the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, at the press briefing said that the new security outfit would work with the vigilante groups and other security agencies in actualising its objective.
“This matter has been under the focus of the State Government since inception of this administration and had informed the appointments and governance structure that has been created since then. It included the creation of Office of Special Adviser (Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution), appointments of persons of Northern extraction and formation of Vigilante Groups in various communities.
“At the same time, we have been very active in the use of intelligence and a recent outcome of this application is the demolition and relocation of the Abraka Market which had turned into a meeting point and haven for criminally-minded persons.
“We have also been quite active in engaging with herders and their host communities to ensure mutual trust and peaceful co-existence through the offices of some of the political appointees”, Ebie stated.
The SSG stressed that the government was ready to rise to the challenge by establishing an independent security outfit to further deal with the challenges, adding that a Bill would be sent to the House of Assembly to give it a legal backing.
“More importantly and to deal with the security challenges, the state government has resolved to establish a joint security taskforce which will be drawn from the existing security agencies (in collaboration with the respective vigilantes)”, Ebie said.
“But, it will operate under an independent structure that will be backed by legislation. Already, a bill to this effect has been sent to the House of Assembly and has scaled the second reading.
“As tasking as the funding requirements of this new body might be, the state government sees it as a realistic and inevitable response to the current security challenge and other related forms of violence. The Joint Security Outfit has been christened Operation Delta Hawk (OPDH),” he stated.
Ebie called on the people not to resort to self-help in the event of any attack as such response was capable of precipitating endless cycle of violence which would do no good to anybody.
“In the meantime, we want to reiterate that the state government is completely averse to resort to self-help on the part of any party as such response is capable of precipitating endless cycle of violence from which no one can profit or benefit.
“On behalf of the state government, we sincerely condole with the families affected by the recent conflicts and urge Deltans to give us the peaceful social space for our various initiatives to run their course, including collaborating with the Federal Government to find solution to this national challenge.
“The process of establishing the new security outfit is being worked out and we will brief Deltans further as we get more details,” he stated.
Three days later, Delta Governor, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, inaugurated two committees on community policing to give effect to the birth of the Operation Delta Hawk, saying it was in response to yearnings of citizens for local policing apparatus to check rising security challenges in the state.
The committees are State Community Policing Advisory Committee (SCPAC) and State Community Policing Committee (SCPC) with high powered, influential and relevant personalities as members.
At the ceremony in Asaba, Okowa said that raising the committees was to deepen the security architecture in the state to enable insecurity issues to be nipped in the bud.
According to him, the committees will help to bolster community policing to check criminal activities and assist the Police and other security agencies to provide and ensure the sustainability a crime-free society.
Said he: “The last six weeks or so have been very tasking and challenging, not just with the existential threats posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic but also of emerging security risks confronting the various federating units.
“Notwithstanding the steady progress made by this administration in partnership with relevant security agencies to ensure the peace and safety of individuals, communities and public property in the state, there is a compelling need to continually deepen and expand our security architecture in such a manner that we are able to preempt and arrest any untoward development.
“Of weighty consideration in this regard is the necessity to bolster our community policing apparatus as the monsters of farmers/herdsmen clashes, cultism, small arms and light weapons proliferations, kidnapping, armed robbery, and other violent crimes appear to be on the resurgence.
“Urgent steps are, therefore, required to avert a possible breakdown of law and order. It is axiomatic that the security of any state or nation is a shared responsibility between the Government, law enforcement agencies and the people.
“And, as I have always said, the job of security is too serious, too important and too demanding to be left to law enforcement agencies alone. Community policing provides us with a strong platform to leverage on this partnership, through the collaboration of the police, the people and the Government. It enables us to improve the processes and structures that engender peace-building, preserve our collective security, enhance the credibility of our criminal justice system and deliver better policing services.’’
The governor recalled that community policing was the subject of the South-South Security Summit held in Asaba in November, 2019 under the auspices of the Inspector-General of Police sand explained that the inauguration of the committees, therefore, was one of the many steps his administration was taking to build on the momentum generated at the Summit.
He noted that members of the committees reflected the qualities of professionalism, character, competence, leadership, maturity, experience and diversity expected of such a high-powered assemblage, saying it could not be otherwise because this is an urgent state assignment that requires sacrifice, dedication, tact and wisdom.
Okowa expressing confidence in members of the committees, stressing that: “I trust in the abilities of these men to liaise with not just the police but all relevant stakeholders in order to advise, identify and nip problems in the bud before they escalate into full blown security challenges.
“I want to emphasise that the three major partners in the community policing process are the people, the police and the government. In this partnership, the relationship must be such that it is consensus-oriented, promotes accountability and elicits the appropriate action necessary to preserve our collective peace and security.
“Where one member of the ‘trinity’ is absent or non-committal, problems are bound to occur. Also, this partnership succeeds when it is not limited to occasional meetings, public declarations or simply sharing information.
“These must be backed with appropriate and decisive action by the police to elicit goodwill and inspire confidence. One key factor that enables problem-solving is the development and deployment of incident management programme.
“In each instance, we owe it a duty to do a proper analysis of what happened in order to correctly frame the problem and proffer the right solutions. The questions to be asked are: What went wrong? How did it happen? Was there any intelligence report? If not, why?”
Earlier, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, who was represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, Michael Ogbizi, had said that the inauguration marked the commencement of community policing in Delta.
He commended the governor for his proactive steps at ensuring that there was security of lives and property in the state, adding that atmosphere of peace was evident in the state. The IGP also expressed confidence that the committees would “take the right steps to ensure that there is peace and crime is reduced to the barest minimum in the state’’.
Others who spoke at the event were Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 5, Mr D.P. Yakadi and Commissioner of Police, Delta Command, Hafiz Inuwa.
Members of SCPAC are the Chairman of Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, Obi Emmanuel Efeizomor II (co-Chairman); Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa (co-Chairman); Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Jallo (Nigerian Army), Mr Ademola Adebiyi (DSS), Cmdt Chike Ikpeamaonwu (NSCDC), Ocheja Ameh (FRSC) and Comptroller Ibrahim Liman (Immigration).
Others are Mr Friday Ovie (Nigeria Correctional Service), Prof. Epiphany Azinge (Rep. Delta North), AIG Felix Ogbaudu (retd) (Rep Delta South), Chief James Omeru (Rep. Delta Central), Alhaji Biliamin Emiko (NSCIA), Rev. Ejiniewe Joseph (CAN), and Amb. Prosper Ojoh (PCRC).
The SCPC has The Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof.) Chike Edozien as Co-Chairman, Mr Mamman Rijau, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Department of Operations (Co-Chairman); Alhaji Billamin Emiko (NSCIA), Rev. Ejiniewe Joseph (CAN), Marshall Prosper Ojoh (PCRC), Dr. Kehinde Taiga (Civil Society Organisation), Comrade Goodluck Oforbruku (Labour Unions), Mrs Agatha Ajede (NCWS), Comrade Kelly Umukoro (NYCN), Barr. Fred Erulu-Ede (NBA), and Comrade Michael Ikeogwu (NUJ)
Not surprising, members of the Delta caucus in the House of Repesentatives quickly endorsed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s move to establish a new security outfit in the state, revealing they it was impressed by the governor’s decision to set up the security outfit known as “Operation Delta Hawk “ in view of the prevailing insecurity in the state, ranging from herders-farmers clashes, kidnapping and other violent crimes.
Minority Leader of the House, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, who led the caucus on a solidarity visit to the Governor at Government House, Asaba, disclosed that the caucus visited to thank the governor for his initiative on rising insecurity in the state through the proposed security outfit.
According to Elumelu, we are here to express the unalloyed support of the caucus to His Excellency’s decision to set up a security apparatus in the state, which has already been named Operation Delta Hawk.
He also said that the caucus was appreciative of the way and manner the state government had been fighting the Coronavirus pandemic and for providing palliatives to vulnerable Deltans during the lockdown period.
The minority leader, acompanied by Honorables Ossai Ossai, Victor Nwokolo and Ben Igbakpa, further disclosed that they also came to felicitate with the governor for effective running of the state and consequential milestones recorded so far.
Elumelu noted that: “On the floor of the House, we pride ourselves as people from Delta because our governor has been able to distinguish himself creditably in the manner in which he has catered for the people of the state. Aside implementing the lockdown, we also congratulated the governor on his decision to set up ‘Operation Delta Hawk’ which we believe will help in solving the insecurity problem that we currently face in Nigeria and not even Delta alone. The measures he has taken so far in addressing the insecurity as it relates to Delta is something we are very proud of and that is why we are here”.
On his part, Nwokolo said that setting up of Operation Delta Hawk was a proactive step in line with Community Policing initiative of the Inspector-General of Police. What he has done in setting up the security outfit is in the right direction and that is one of the reasons why we are here to commend him for being proactive because the actions he has taken are in the right direction because we can’t keep folding our hands.
“All over the world we are talking about community policing, so setting up Operation Delta Hawk is in that direction which will bring up a team of professionals in the real sense of security professionals to advise the state in what direction to go.
“He is being proactive and we must commend him because you can’t be putting infrastructure for your people yet they are killing them every day. He is one man who doesn’t believe in self-help and being lawless and that’s exactly what he has decided to do and we are optimistic that he will record huge success from this decision as he has always had in the the past”
Relatedly, President General, Asaba Development Union-World Wide (ADU WW), and member of SCPAC, Chief Prof Epiphany Azinge (SAN), appauled the Delta State government’s initiative on security for the safety of lives and properties of all in the state.
The learned silk in statement commended the state government for this well thought out plan to unveil Operation Delta Hawk as a veritable security outfit, disclosing that efforts were on to reach out to the leadership of neighbouring communities to ensure the success of the programme.
“i am in touch with President Generals from entire Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, particularly Ibusa and Okpanam. ADU WW is already engaging with our vigilante group and are prepared and determined to support them all the way. I have also sufficiently galvanized our political office holders in Abuja and everybody is in sync with our strategic action plan to defend our territory”, Azinge emphasized.
Most importantly, traditional rulers in Delta imapplauded Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for the initiative to set up the ‘Operation Delta Hawk’ security outfit for the purpose of community policing of the state, with a call on all security agencies and all persons of conscience to put up concerted effort to flush out the criminal herdsmen and their camps from the bushes of Delta State.
Speaking at a media forum with journalists in the palace of His Royal Majesty, Dr. Emmanuel Efeizomor, Obi of Owa, who is also the Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, they expressed strong concern over the evil activities of alleged criminal herdsmen that have seized the bushes of the state, killing, maiming, kidnapping and collecting ransom, raping the women and destroying farm produce with their cattle.
Obi Efeizomor with whom were the Obi of Onicha-Ugbo, Obi of Issele-Uku, Obi of Atuma, Obi of Idumuje-Unor, Obi of Umunede, and Obi of Akumazi said: “These people who have camps in the bush should be made to leave the bush where they have set up camps across the state. They should not be allowed to live in the bush from where they come to commit crimes. They should be chased out of the bushes where they camp and launch criminal attacks on the people”.
Obi Efeizomor commended Governor Okowa for taking concrete steps to tackle looming threat to peace and security hitherto enjoyed in the state, adding that the initiative has helped in calming frayed nerves.
“On behalf of Delta Traditional Rulers council, we say that the initiative to set up an independent security outfit in Delta State is commendable. The exercise is long overdue. We thank the governor immensely for making this a reality. We the traditional rulers will give our support. We ask that the exercise should involve whistle blowing. We have been waiting for this community policing outfit for a long time,” Obi Efeizomor said.
Although the outfit is yet to commence, the avalanche of support and solidarity from across key sections of the society, including religious, traditional, sociocultural, political and civil society groups, is a clear pointer that the governor is on a right path.
Undoubtedly, there are expectations that when the outfit is eventually unveiled, it will help to restore sanity and galvanise the Delta state to greater heights. It is also unlikely that the unveiling would be characterized with avoidable acrimony since consultations for the setting up of the Operation Delta Hawk has been across board.
It is however hoped that fears previously associated with the plan to establish community police in the country would have been sufficiently mitigated before the take off of the new security outfit. The excesses of the youth, who will make up the bulk of the recruits must be nipped in the bud. The point must be stressed for collaboration between Operation Delta Hawk and other security agencies; possible areas of conflict and rivalry must be effectively mitigated.
By and large, there is no controversy ad to the correctness of this noble initiative. Definitely, Governor Okowa has demonstrated unquestionable and excellent courage in initiating the move. He deserves the accolades that has trailed the constitution of two committees as a precursor to the setting up of the outfit. Except that there are prayers that bureaucratic bottleneck would not be created to stifle and make the expectation a myriad.